Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has criticized the performance of the Russian military following the weekend loss of Izyum, a key supply hub in Ukraine’s Kharkiv province.
In an 11-minute voicemail posted on the Telegram messaging app on Saturday, he admitted the campaign was not going to be planned.
“If today or tomorrow changes are not made to the conduct of the special military operation, I will be forced to go to the country’s leaders to explain the situation on the ground to them,” said Kadyrov, the chief. of Chechnya appointed by the Kremlin. .
“I am not a strategist like those of the Ministry of Defense. But it is clear that mistakes were made. I think they will draw some conclusions,” he said, quoting Novaya Gazeta Europe, adding that all settlements would return to Russian control.
“We have our men there, fighters prepared specifically for such situations. 10,000 additional fighters are ready to join them. We will reach Odessa in the near future.
The criticism came after Russian military leaders appeared to be caught off guard by Ukraine’s response to its invasion in the northeast.
On Sunday, Russian nationalists angrily called on Putin to make immediate changes to secure final victory in the war in Ukraine, a day after Moscow was forced to abandon its main stronghold in northeastern Ukraine.
Izyum’s swift fall was Russia’s worst military defeat since its troops were pushed back from Ukraine’s capital Kyiv in March.
As Russian forces abandoned town after town on Saturday, Putin opened Europe’s largest Ferris wheel in a Moscow park, as fireworks lit up the sky above Red Square to celebrate the founding of the city in 1147.
Moscow’s near total silence on the defeat – or any explanation for what happened in northeastern Ukraine – has sparked significant anger among some pro-war commentators and Russian nationalists on social media.
As the defeats unfolded, the Russian Defense Ministry on Friday released video footage of what it said were troops sent to the Kharkiv region.
On Sunday, the Defense Ministry said Russian forces struck Ukrainian positions in the area with airborne troops, missiles and artillery.
Kyiv reporter Gabriel Elizondo of Al Jazeera said many pro-Russian Telegram channels were saying it was a defeat, “and a top military analyst said their troops were in an operational crisis and the Ukrainians had taken the initiative in this war”. ”.
Moscow is silent
Neither Putin, who is the supreme commander-in-chief of the Russian armed forces, nor Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu had publicly commented on the defeat Sunday noon.
“We are proud of Moscow and love this city with its majestic antiquity and modern, dynamic pace of life, the charm of its cozy parks, alleys and streets, and the abundance of business and cultural events,” Putin told Muscovites , according to a Kremlin transcript of his congratulatory message.
Putin, who described his shock when told, as a KGB spy in East Germany, that “Moscow is silent” as the Berlin Wall crumbles, said those who were fallen during the operation in Ukraine had given their lives for Russia.
The Department of Defense did not respond to a request for comment.
“They’re fucking the fuck up,” wrote a prominent pro-war military blogger on Telegram, who posts under the name Rybar. “Now is not the time to shut up and say nothing…it seriously damages the cause.”
On Saturday, the ministry announced a “regrouping” that would move troops away from Kharkiv to focus on the Donetsk region further east in Ukraine – a statement that has drawn the ire of many Russian military bloggers.
Some of the pro-Kremlin war correspondents and former and current military personnel who have amassed large followers on Telegram have accused the ministry of downplaying the defeat.
Igor Girkin, a nationalist and former FSB officer who helped launch a 2014 war in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region, compared the collapse of one of the conflict’s main frontlines to the Battle of Mukden in 1905 – a catastrophic defeat in the Russo-Japanese War which sparked the Russian Revolution of 1905.
Ukraine hailed its rapid advance, which saw thousands of Russian troops flee, leaving behind stockpiles of ammunition and equipment, as a turning point in the six-month-old war.
Girkin, who has not spared his criticism of the country’s top brass, dubbing Defense Minister Shoigu “the cardboard marshal”, has repeatedly said that Russia will be defeated in Ukraine if it does not declare not a national mobilization.
Nationalist anger at military failure is potentially a far bigger issue for the Kremlin than pro-Western liberal criticism of Putin: opinion polls continue to show broad support for what Moscow calls “the military operation special”.
As the capital celebrated Moscow Day with street parties and concerts on Saturday, rumblings of concern even spread through the usually submissive Russian parliament.
Sergei Mironov, leader of the nominal but Putin-loyal opposition party Fair Russia, said on Twitter that a fireworks display in honor of the holiday should be canceled given the military situation.
A message reposted on Telegram by prominent war correspondent Semyon Pegov called the celebrations in Moscow “blasphemous” and the Russian authorities’ refusal to engage in full-scale war “schizophrenic”.
“Either Russia will become itself through the birth of a new political elite… or it will cease to exist,” it read.